'Tower Heist': Indie Theaters Refuse to Screen Film Over Premium VOD

David Lee/Universal Studios

Big exhibitor Cinemark has also said it would boycott the Brett Ratner comedy with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy as it will become available in select homes only three weeks after its theatrical launch.

NEW YORK - Independent movie theater groups have joined Cinemark in opposing Universal Pictures’ decision to offer upcoming action-comedy Tower Heist on premium video-on-demand three weeks after it hits theaters.

A number of indie theater chains, such as Galaxy Theatres, Regency Theatres and Emagine Theatres, have vowed not to play the movie, starring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller, if Universal doesn't change its early release plans, the LA Times reported.

It added that small cinema houses representing 50 screens around the country have also refused to screen the movie, directed by Brett Ratner, due to the early start of its premium VOD window.

"We just feel it’s a time to draw a line in the sand,’’ Rafe Cohen, president of Galaxy Theatres, which operates 106 screens in California, Washington, Nevada and Texas, told the Times. “This is virtually a simultaneous release that we don’t think will be helpful to anyone. We’re standing on principle that it’s best to preserve the theatrical window.”

Cinemark, the nation's third-largest theater circuit, has also warned Universal that it would boycott the film.

Universal, part of Comcast-controlled NBCUniversal, said Tower Heist would open in theaters Nov. 4 and then become available to about 500,000 homes in Atlanta and Portland, Ore. for $59.99 three weeks later.

Previously, four studios struck a deal with satellite TV giant DirectTV to make certain films available via premium VOD 60 days after their theatrical launch for $29.99.

Universal executives are assuring theater owners that the Tower Heist release is a test, the Times said.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai